Going to see The Hobbit recently reminded me of starting my own church planting journey in S. Asia one year ago. I can't help but recapture the conversation between Gandalf and the Hobbit as the Hobbit is contemplating the journey:
Gandalf: You'll have a tale or two to tell when you come back.
The Hobbit: Can you promise I will come back?
Gandalf: No. And if you do, you will not be the same.
Embarking on my own journey one year ago was full of the unknown and in many ways uncertainty to what I/my family was about to experience. For those of you who have also served overseas you understand what I mean and for those of you who have not then you likely do not and cannot. One thing that I was told by my mentors was that they could not wait to see me again in the future because they knew that I was going to change so much and never be the same. But could they promise I would come back? No, but they knew if I did that I would never be the same.
I distinctly remember sitting around a fire pit outside of my parents house the night before I left feeling this uncertainty, much in the same way that the Hobbit did. But then I came back to God's promises over my life and recognized that at this moment in my life he was calling me to something greater in moving to S. Asia to see new churches planted where there are none.
As I look back it has not been the easiest year of our lives in many ways, we have dealt with much sickness, broken bones, car wrecks, mold issues, and overall hardship, but as we finish 2012 and move into 2013 we are more excited than ever to see what God is going to do. Much like the Hobbit dealt with adversity and continued on his journey we too are marching on. And just as the Hobbit wanted to so badly return to the known and familiarity of his own home he did not yet because he believed in the mission that the group was on.
In this same way there have been times over this year that we or at least I was ready to throw in the towel and get on the next plane home. But I always came back to being here because of God's love for these people and so that they too would have a local church and an opportunity to hear the gospel and experience God's love in the same way that I did growing up.
So as the journey continues into 2013 there are still many unknowns but one thing is for certain, that God is at work in our lives and in the lives of the people in S. Asia. At this time he has us on his mission in this place because it is not yet time to return to the familiar.